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Five Ex-Police Officers Charged With Murder; Officials To Release Video Showing Police Beating Of Nichols; Police Chief: Unable To Substantiate Probable Cause For Stop; Police Chief: You Hear Nichols Cry Out For His Mom On Video; Crump: Memphis "The Blueprint" For Charging Cops Committing Crime; Family Atty: Video Shows "Helpless" Nichols Being Brutalized By Police; Nichols Family, Attorneys Speak In Memphis; Crump: Police Used "Excessive, Brutal Force" Against Nichols. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 27, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello everybody, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing what will be a sobering and consequential news day. With us, any moment now a portrait of pain and grief in Memphis. You see the scene right there. The family of Tyre Nichols is about to speak.
They are doing so just a few hours before the world gets to see a horrific video, video a police beating of Mr. Nichols and the family is speaking one day after five now fired police officers were indicted for murdering their 29 year old son.
This morning just a jaw dropping preview of what we will see that video and it comes direct from the Memphis police chief. She warns her officers acted quote, the same if not worse, than the L.A. cops who beat Rodney King a generation ago. Her officers the chief says escalated, their aggression she says it's just simply unexplainable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF CERELYN "CJ" DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE: I was outraged. I was - it was incomprehensible to me. It was unconscionable. I don't think I've witnessed anything of that nature my entire career.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
CHIEF DAVIS: Really.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That bad?
CHIEF DAVIS: It was that bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we going to see then?
CHIEF DAVIS: You're going to see act that defy humanity. You're going to see a disregard for life, duty of care that we're all sworn to, individuals watching will feel what the family felt. And if you don't, then you're not a human being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Get straight to the scene in Memphis, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is there. Shimon, you hear the chief teeing up what the world will see later today. We're just moments way from hearing from Mr. Nichols family.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it was the first time we got to hear from the police chief. It's the first time she's done an interview. It's the first time she's taken questions and what really is 20 days ago, what occurred here, and you can really see the emotion and the concern that she has, and other political leaders and clergy leaders and other just people in this town have over what they're going to see.
And really people all across the country, law enforcement all across the country preparing for what is to come because it's just so horrific. You can really feel, John, today the emotion of this story, the pain that law enforcement is feeling as a result of this. And that's really what's going on here. Today for the most part, the streets are quiet.
We're in downtown here in Memphis. There's not a lot of activity. We're not seeing an uptick in police activity. Some of the school events here for tonight have been canceled across the city as they prepare for this video, which is set to be released in about six hours here.
So, it's going to be a difficult night for sure. But, you know, you can really sense that people are preparing themselves for what they're about to see more from an emotional and just how difficult this is going to be than anything else. And in terms of any kind of reaction here in Memphis, the police are prepared and police all across the country are making preparations, just in case there's any kind of reaction, John?
KING: Just in case, Shimon stay with us. I'm going to let our viewers know when the family starts to speak, and their attorneys start to speak but to get you there live immediately. In the meantime, though, let's have a conversation. With me to share their expertise and their insights, the former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, and the former maryland state police commander, Neill Franklin.
Major Franklin, I want to start with you, and I want to listen to more Chief Davis. I know you know, Chief Davis in Memphis. And one of the striking things about this tragic situation is that the family keeps applauding this police chief for her actions and for her words.
Listen here, as she describes one of the painful, painful things we are going to see when this video is released later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tyre Nichols cries for his mother. Did you hear that? CHIEF DAVIS: I did. I heard him call out for his mother, for his mom. I did. That's what really just pulls at your heartstrings and makes you wonder, why was a sense of care and concern for this individual just absent from this situation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Major Franklin, what are your thoughts on how this is playing out on releasing a video on Friday night? Some people have said maybe should you have done it earlier in the day. Is there a risk in that? And the chief getting out there publicly and describing the unthinkable and the unspeakable in many ways, and saying how embarrassed and ashamed she is that this happened on her watch her department?
NEILL FRANKLIN, FORMER MARYLAND STATE POLICE COMMANDER: Yes, John. First, regarding the timeline of the release, I think the chief also spoke to this. And people have been questioning this decision, but you want as few people out and about as possible. Schools will be closed. Many of your businesses will be closed. You know, we're coming into the weekend, there'll be less traffic, less people out and about and better conditions for safety and better conditions for the police to get ahead on things.
Hopefully, you know, things won't go right. We talked about being optimistic and that's where we need to begin with this. I think her actions, her swift actions, and many police chiefs don't have the ability to fire people so quickly. But her swift actions, the investigation, how quickly that took place, the prosecutor moving very quickly on placing charges has a lot to do with the potential response from the citizens.
I think it was Benjamin Crump, who said this is a blueprint for how these things should be investigated when they do occur. So, I think Chief Davis has done a wonderful job thus far, and in light of the circumstances. And just real quick, she spoke about reducing the number of higher ranks in her department, so she can put more first line supervisors on the street.
And I think we should talk about that later. But it's very important that police departments take a look at this strategy across the board. Because we have these young police officers who have a lot of power at their fingertips, and you need good, consistent, first line supervision. The well-trained, police officers are well trained, but we have to enforce that training through first line supervision.
KING: It's an excellent point, and you know how to reach us. So please make sure we continue that conversation. Today is obviously about the video and about the family and about the prosecution. But we should continue that. Elliot, one of the interesting things, I want you to listen to the police chief here. You know, we have murky information, very vague information about how this played out.
But what we did have on the record was that there was some reckless driving. And that was the initial - the police were pulling Mr. Nichols over because of reckless driving. Listen to the chief, she says, and she has seen the video, and she obviously has access to information that we have not made public. And she says, she cannot even see the probable cause for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF DAVIS: We've looked at cameras, we've looked at body worn cameras. And even if something occurred prior to this stop, we've been unable to substantiate that at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you haven't found anything that's to substantiate the probable cause for reckless driving.
CHIEF DAVIS: Not at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this was just within a couple of hundred feet of his home - of his home?
CHIEF DAVIS: That's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There is no justification anyway for beating, pummeling, treating like a pin yada, as the family says any suspect under any circumstances. But if this happened, even without a predicate probable cause, what does that tell you?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there's a few things going on here. Number one, John, there were two different charges that the officers are facing related to official misconduct, set aside the violent crime that happened here, which of course they're charging. But, you know, the prosecutor clearly has identified that something went wrong, and how the police even conducted their jobs. There's also an indication that they were - I think, using elevated toner was highly charged when they approached the vehicle in the first place.
Now, look, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which talks about searches and seizures, really says that for the most part, when you encounter a police officer, you're free to go. And this whole idea of creating this custodial situation where he did not - clearly did not feel he was free to go was restrained, being beaten and so on.
All plays into the legitimacy of the stop and plays into number one, whether they should have been there in the first place, and two the charges against the officers themselves. So, there's a lot going on here. I think again, I don't want to speak before I see this video, but I think there's improper conduct from the officers even outside of overstepping the bounds physically.
KING: And Shimon, as we wait to hear from Ben Crump, the attorney and from Mr. Nichols parents, his mother and his stepfather. I want to return to the point, Major Franklin made just a moment ago because I want you to listen to Ben Crump. We'll see what he says at this event.
But, Mr. Crump, we have seen in past episodes, horrific episodes of violence, police violence against black Americans. Listen to him here where he describes the blueprint point that Major Franklin may say, here's the department, yes, there's pain. Yes, there's incredible anger, but this one's different. Listen?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TYRE NICHOLS FAMILY: This is not the blueprint for America. When you see officers committing crimes on video, then you can't tell us that you got to go six months, you got to go a year that Tamir Rice, the Michael Brown, (Inaudible). All these cases took so long Philando Castile for them to charge. But here in Memphis, we have the blueprint that can be done swiftly and efficiently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You know, at these moments, you hear the litany of names everybody should remember, cases that everybody should remember. You have covered many, if not most of those cases. You've also been to Uvalde and been through this. How does that make it different that the police department here, again the family and everybody around us is mad, they are angry, they have pain, but they seem to have a somewhat different perspective because of how it's been handled.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. They definitely do seem to have that different perspective. One of the key things that I think that the police and the authorities here have done so well is bringing the families into this very early on, keeping them informed, telling them, the D.A yesterday saying, I spoke to the family about the charges that we were considering, including them in that process, showing them the video, telling them everything that was going on.
And not just anyone at the police department, you're talking to chief, the mayor, you're talking the district attorney, that is a very important thing to do. Anytime you have families who are suffering like this, who need information, keeping them informed and keeping them in the loop on what they were thinking and what they knew, I think is one of the big differences in this.
And making them part of their decision and making them feel like they're part of every decision that the D.A was doing, that the police were doing, they told the families we are going to be releasing this video, but we just need some time. And what that does is then you can have the families come out and talk.
And the attorney like Ben Crump come out and talk to the community and say, hey, this is what we are being told by the police. This is what we are being told by the authorities and we believe them, and so you should believe them.
So let this play out. And let's keep the peace. And we will get to a point where you will see this video. And I think another important point in all of this, John, is because a lot of people are talking about this is should we see the video? Should the video be out there because it's so horrific?
The family is asking for this video to be out there. They feel it's important because it's about accountability. It's about making sure people realize that what happened here should never happen and should never happen again.
And in some cases, the only way, perhaps, is to see the violence of this, that perhaps if people see this violence, perhaps if people see what happened here, maybe in some way, it could prevent it. Because we've seen time and time again, where video was not released. And it's problematic when it's not.
And I think even though we've had to wait 20 days, ultimately, I think the family and that's what's really so important here, John, is the family. What are the family's desires? And what are the family's wishes. And I think the D.A and the police have been doing that very well and meeting that.
KING: Major Franklin help on that point. And as you do, I want to listen to just a little bit more from the chief because I want to reinforce for our viewers. You know this chief, you've been in conversations with her, your organizations you've been involved with, talking about police reform, after the sad litany of names we heard from Ben Crump there.
listened to her making the point here again. She's the chief of the Memphis Police Department. And her point here is that, here you have an example where, you know, the conduct of in this case, a handful of her police officers, she's hoping but she understands it might at least in the short-term stain, the vast majority of good cops out there. Listen?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF DAVIS: We have all talked about police legitimacy, you know, and police reform. And I think it's really important that in instances like this, when they are serious, when they are - when they are - they do arise to that level where persons constitutional rights have been violated. Their civil rights have been violated, that we act, and we act swiftly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, this is another episode in a conversation, the country has been having for a couple of years. Help me with your sense of the context?
FRANKLIN: Yes. So, acting and acting swiftly. So, what we've seen is that acting at the managerial level, at the executive office level in what she has done in terminating these five police officers. But how do we do that and push it down through the department, and I want other police officers to hear this, that we have to also act swiftly among the ranks and expelling those police officers who we know are problematic.
The ones that we know use excessive force - the ones that we know are corrupt, we need to do and show the public that we can do a better job, a much better job at policing ourselves. That's the way you gain trust from the community. That's the way you restore trust with these young people across the country.
We have to do a better job at the lower ranks. And not just expelling those, but also the duty to intervene after George Floyd and seeing what happened there. How can any police officer not intervene today when we have such an incident?
FRANKLIN: I'm perplexed.
KING: And from the descriptions of this video by those who have seen it, we will be asking them question quite a bit with a lot of pain and graphic evidence to that question I want to ask everybody to stand by or again we're waiting to hear from Tyree Nichols family, his mother and his stepfather as well as their attorneys who'll bring you that live as soon as it happens. In the meantime, we're going to step away for just a quick break.
KING: Breaking news. We're waiting. We're just moments away. We were told from a press conference in Memphis, Tennessee, the family of Tyre Nichols, his mother and his stepfather as well as their attorney Benjamin Crump. You see this happening right now. We just take you there live.
PASTOR THOMAS: To be grace and strength for them. Be with Attorney Crump and his team as they labor for justice. Be with the city. As we deal with all of the news and deal with all that we have to deal with in days to come. God, we ask your blessings as we share it today. We pray in Jesus name, Amen.
It is my delight to bring on again today. Attorney Crump who is America's black attorney general, a fighter for justice, a fighter for peace. And we asked him to comment this time. Give him a hand as he comes.
BEN CRUMP, TYRE NICHOLS' FAMILY ATTORNEY: Thank you so much, Pastor Thomas again for allowing us to be in your cathedral. I'm attorney Ben Crump and along with Attorney Tony Romanucci, Attorney Ernestine Doris (Ph), and Attorney Van Turner who is also the president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP.
We are proud to represent the family of Tyre Nichols. Also present with us, of course, is Bishop Williamson, who has been a steady faith leader for us in this ordeal, as well as (Inaudible) who is Memphis native, who is my investigator, but also is a person in the community, who even before the video came out, the community activists were saying that something isn't right about this.
I want to thank all those community activists and all those community people who stood up for justice, even before we showed up, even before the cameras showed up. I think they deserve a big round of applause.
We have the SCLC president here as Wells. And obviously we have the people most affected by this tragedy, who was showing search grace on these tragic circumstances. That is the stepfather of Tyre Nichols, Rodney Wells, and the mother of Tyre Nichols, Ms. RowVaughn Wells. We can never applaud you enough for your grace and dignity throughout this.
So, what are we here for today? At this hour, we're here to give a reaction to the charges that were announced by District Attorney Mulroy yesterday. And to give remarks in anticipation of the last documentation of Tyre Nichols alive on this earth. So, we began with our reactions to the charges.
And we applaud the district attorney for bringing charges against the five officers for second degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression, very important charges against these five offices.
As Pastor Thomas refer, sometimes I'm referred to as black America's attorney general. And we stand on the principle of equal justice. So, let me be exceedingly clear on this point. When we look at how these five black officers who were caught on camera, committing a crime, and when we look at how fast the police chief and the police department terminated them, and we look at how swiftly the district attorney bought charges against them in less than 20 days.
We want to proclaim that this is the blueprint going forward for anytime, any officers, whether they be black or white, will be held accountable. No longer can you tell us we got to wait six months to a year, even though we got a video with evidence of the excessive force in the crime. No more can you tell us that anymore because with these five black officers, you are moving swiftly.
And as the chief said, it was important for the community that they took swift action, and that justice moves swiftly against these five officers who happened to be African American. Well, it is white officers, we think it's also important to the community that there is swift action and that we move swiftly to justice.
And make us, let's be honest, let's think about it. This is not the first time that we saw police officers commit in crime and engaging in excessive, brutal force against black people in America who are unarmed. But yet, we have never seen swift justice like this. Think about, Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, kind of what that - was that over a year, 14 months, even though they had that video on day one.
Think about the video of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. How long it took, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Think about all these cases, Alton Sterling silky in Baton Rouge, Louisiana own video. Think about Pamela Turner, Houston, Texas, killed on video. It took a year for them to bring charges in her case, even though they had the video day one. Think about Ronald Greene in Louisiana. I mean, he had that video for day one, it took over a year to bring charges against them. I mean, so many, my God. Think about 14-year-old Tamir Rice on video. And why justice didn't move swiftly for any of these black people when they were killed by white police officers.
So, we have to make the point exceedingly clear. We now have the blueprint America. And we want to accept less going forward in the future. We won't have black officers treated differently than white officers. We want equal justice under the law, Kareem deserved it, Tamir Rice deserve it, Ronald Greene deserved it, Alton Sterling deserved it, Eric Garner deserve it, Pamela Turner deserved it. All our children.
Byron Williams deserved it. I mean, he was killed for riding a bicycle while black in Las Vegas on video. And yet the investigation is still going on over a year. And so, we have a precedent that has been set here in Memphis. And we intend to hold this blueprint for all America from this day forward.
Now, also, and you're going to hear from her man with grace and dignity for (Inaudible) Tyre's mother. She said previously that she feels God used her son as an assignment. And Bishop Williamson, even though it's very, very painful, and God knows this is tragic, that she believes God used her son as an assignment. Amen.
And her and Mr. Wells said, this assignment is for reform, reform that we can try to prevent some of these hashtag, black and brown people have been unjustly killed by police. Then we can create a Tyre law here in Tennessee. That will be various - that were emphasized the importance of police officers.
President Turner to have a duty to intervene when they see crimes being committed, even if those crimes are being committed by their fellow officers. That will be the appropriate legacy that we give Tyre Nichols, if we really say we want justice for justice is not just justice for one family, is justice for all of us. That's what RowVaughn is praying for.
She wants to reform. We want this duty to intervene to become Tyre's love, just like they have.